James O’Brien is the Director of International Operations for F1 Experiences and the public face of the programme. The Australian, who is based in the UK, has been working in Formula 1 for more than 10 years.
What are your responsibilities at F1 Experiences?
I have operational responsibility for the F1 Experiences programme, which means I am responsible for every facet of the on-site experience. I have an incredibly hard-working team that makes sure everything runs smoothly. From transport to the circuit, to organising experiences, right through to the delivery of the hospitality elements. I’m liaising with teams, sponsors, drivers, contractors, promoters – it’s certainly never dull! I’m also the guy who gets up on stage and interviews the drivers and the celebrities of the sport. That’s a very cool fringe benefit!
How did you get into Formula 1?
I have worked in Formula 1 since the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix. I was invited to be a part of the circus by a former colleague and started in the Formula 1 Paddock Club. From there I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with several teams, sponsors and agencies and now lead the F1 Experiences on-site team.
What’s the best part about working with F1 Experiences?
There are many great things, but for me, it’s the priceless moments that we deliver. The kind of stuff that money can’t buy – and we do it week in, week out. It’s a pretty special thing to make a wish come true. I guess I’m a 6 foot 4 fairy godmother!
Why choose F1 Experiences?
That’s a simple question answer really and it’s all about the access. Because we are working in partnership with Formula 1 and the teams, we can bring you closer than ever before. When I first started in the sport, F1 was very much about ‘show and tell’. My job is to ignite the remaining three senses, immersing you into the sport with sight, sound, smell, touch and taste.
What’s your favourite F1 city?
Controversial! I have favorite races and cities for different reasons – all of them have their unique qualities… some more than others! If you’re coming for a fully immersive experience that involves the city and the race, it’s Melbourne or Montreal. Looking for history? It has to be Spa. Razzle dazzle? Monaco or Abu Dhabi. But I guess if I had to name one city that is a must visit – Monza. You can literally feel the history as you enter the Autodromo di Monza. Plus, Milan is a short distance away with the amazing Duomo – and lots of great eateries. If you’re a fan of F1 and haven’t done Monza – do it. You won’t be disappointed.
What are you most looking forward to about the 2019 F1 season?
We have the biggest shake up in the driver market for many years, so I’m looking forward to seeing sparks fly up and down the grid!
- World Champion? I’ll back Hamilton to take number 6.
- Biggest surprise? Pierre Gasly. Sparks!
- Biggest disappointment? I’m sad we won’t have any more radio moments from Fernando Alonso!